A Portable Hole, 2018

A Portable Hole
Exhibition 5th — 14th October 2018
The show was part of the Art Licks Weekend 2018.

Featuring work by artist Rachel Ara, Laura Fitzgerald, Patrick Goddard, Katrin Hanusch, Tom Mason, and Mark Wallinger.

A Portable Hole brings together a selection of works that engage aesthetically or metaphorically with labyrinths, mazes, escape routes, exits and/or wormholes. It draws inspiration from current socio-political events, like the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, that offer no clear get out or resolution. Experiencing these events it likens to traversing a labyrinth—a single, non-branching path that leads to an unseen centre and (hopefully) out again. As a form of escape the exhibition proposes a solution in the form of the ‘portable hole’—a fictional device made famous by the roadrunner and the coyote in the Looney Tunes cartoons. When placed on a surface, the circular cloth creates a hole that offers the user a getaway that would otherwise be impossible.

These themes are taken forward by each of the artists in different ways. Opening the show Rachel Ara’s American Beauty (a Trump L‘oeil) (2018) superimposes a dancing orange hairpiece against the labyrinthine architecture of the Barbican Estate. Echoing the iconic plastic bag scene from Sam Mendes’s American Beauty, the work’s title plays on the phrase Trompe L’oeil—“deceives the eye”.

Katrin Hanusch’s free standing sculpture, Monolith (2018), presents a modular labyrinth that can grow to any size. The wax tiles feature seven different designs that fit together in thousands of different permutations, showing how simple shapes can expand into complex patterns. The work references an artefact or tablet—the symbols look intelligible but they’re not—as well as the body, the thickness of the drawn lines being dictated by the width of the artist’s fingers.

Tom Mason’s drawings and paintings function as visual puzzles that are left open to multiple interpretations and associations. A precarious stack of gold coins could also be a stairway or a passage, while the abbreviation of the work ‘progress’ could reference prog rock or the difficulty of progressing artistically. His t-shirt, Next Level (2018), compares an upside down labyrinth to a smiley face—a symbol that was taken on by the rave scene as a signifier of escapism and counter culture.

Laura Fitzgerald’s instructions on how to sever a personal relationship, in the context of the show become advice for broaching difficult exits of all kinds, while Patrick Goddard’s 5 minute video, Free Radicals (2014) depicts a hole, a tunnel, a wormhole, that is evocative of the wandering hours spent online. It is a labyrinth, but it is also potentially a way out of one, with the two voices and the neon-lit waterslides referencing both a trip and the internet—two different forms of escapism.

Labyrinths have historically been understood as both a site of refuge and incarceration. In Greek mythology, the architect Daedalus built a labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. In Romanticism however, the labyrinth was a symbol of a sanctuary, “a setting for creative acts, a space ‘where time and the phenomenal world are placed in suspension.’” A Portable Hole considers both cultural uses equally, finding in the politically perilous present, an ever-growing need for both shelter and escape. The reference to the “portable hole” highlights the power of the imaginary, at a time when logic doesn’t seem to apply to a rapidly shifting socio-political landscape.

Unit 2 Boothby Road / Archway
N19 4AJ London

Installation shots from the exhibition
A Portable Hole.

Photos @Katrin Hanusch

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